REPAIRING RELATIONSHIPS – Ephesians 4:31–32
We’re in our Part 6 in our Breaking Free series. Every so often an article will run with a few mistakes and then the newspaper or website will need to publish a correction. This week I found a few corrections that I wanted you to see.
What these people are trying to do when they make these corrections is they are trying to make right something that they have wronged. And that’s what step 6 is in Breaking Free. It’s on doing a little relational repair work. And going back and trying to repair some of the damage that others have done to us and we have done to others.
As a refresher let’s look at the previous 5 steps.
- – Realize I’m not God, that I’m powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and my life is unmanageable. – Reality Step
- – Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. – Hope Step
- – Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. – Commitment Step
- – Openly examine and confess my faults to God, to myself, and to someone I trust. – Housecleaning Step
- – Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask him to remove my character defects. – Transformation Step
Those messages are up on the website…if you missed them go and get them via our podcast.
Step 6 is based on Ephesians 4:31–32: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Step 6 is the second E in the RECOVERY…Evaluate all my relationships, offer forgiveness to those who’ve hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others except when to do so would harm them or others.
This step, there are obviously two parts to it. First, forgive those that have hurt me and second, make amends to those I’ve hurt. Let’s first deal with the first part…offer forgiveness…Why should I forgive? And then how should I forgive?
Why should I forgive?
- Because God has forgiven me.
Colossians 3:12-13, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” When I understand the depth of God’s forgiveness lavished on me, it is easier to forgive others. You will never have to forgive anybody else more than God has already forgiven you. I will never have to forgive anybody else, more than God has forgiven me. We have a hard time forgiving when we don’t feel forgiven. People who feel unforgiven find it difficult to forgive others. When we surrender to Jesus, we are forgiven, at that moment…You need to realize if God’s forgiven me then I need to forgive other people.
- Because resentment doesn’t work.
In May 2016 an Israeli man petitioned for a restraining order against God. Apparently the plaintiff, identified as Mr. David Shoshan, represented himself at a court hearing in Haifa, a port city in the north of Israel. The report noted that God was not present to defend himself. (Of course maybe God was present but didn’t feel a need to defend himself).
Mr. Shoshan told the court that God had been treating him “harshly and not nicely”—though no specific details were given about what exactly had happened to make him feel this way. Mr. Shoshan also explained that he had made several attempts to contact police to report God’s alleged crimes, and that patrol cars had been sent to his house on 10 occasions. Police advised Shoshan to try taking out a restraining order.
The request for a restraining order was denied by the presiding Judge Ahsan Canaan, who said the request was “delusional” and that the petitioner required help from sources outside of the court.
Resentment is not good, and it does the most damage to the person that is harboring it. Job 5:2: “Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple.” Notice the writer says vexation or resentment kills who? The fool, because resentment is illogical, unreasonable. Does resentment ever cause people to do stupid things? Yes. It’s like shooting yourself so you’ll hit somebody else when the gun recoils. It doesn’t work. You always hurt yourself more than the other person.
Resentment cannot change the past, cannot correct the problem, it doesn’t change the person, it doesn’t even hurt that person, it only hurts you. Have you ever talked to anybody who’s been resentful and they say, “I feel so much better being resentful.” Bitterness just makes you mad, unhappy. The most unhappy people I know are those who are carrying a grudge. It’s unreasonable, unhelpful.
Also, when you’re resentful it just makes you unhealthy. It has physical consequences. It has emotional consequences. It can lead to depression. It can lead to additional stress. It can lead to fatigue, because nothing drains you emotionally like bitterness. Thinking of that person, that former girlfriend, boyfriend, former husband or wife, teacher who embarrassed you in school or parent who never told you they love you, or that coworker or leader who said those things about you, you hold all that. It drains your body of energy. It just prolongs the hurt. You need to forgive those that hurt you, for your own sake.
- Because I need forgiveness in the future.
Mark 11:25: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Resentment blocks feeling God’s forgiveness in your life. The Bible says we cannot receive what we are unwilling to give. Think about the Lord’s Prayer…“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Here is what we mean…“Lord forgive me as much as we forgive everybody else.” Do you really want that? You need to forgive other people because God’s forgiven you, because resentment doesn’t work and because you’re going to need forgiveness in the future and you don’t want to burn the bridge that you’ve got to walk across. Forgiveness is a two-way street. A guy came to John Wesley one time and said, “I can never forgive that person. Never.” John Wesley said, “Then I hope you never sin. Because we all need what we don’t want to give.” Don’t burn that bridge that you need to walk across.
How do I forgive?
So we understand why…now let’s talk about how. How do I forgive those who hurt me?
- Reveal my hurt.
Admit it. Let it out. Face it. Be honest. You can’t get over hurt until you admit it hurt. Often, we don’t want to admit the times that people we love have hurt us; because we have a misunderstanding that you can’t love somebody and be angry at them at the same time. You can. All anger is not bad. No one is perfect and that means that we are going to mistreat each other from time to time. Maybe there were times when your parents didn’t do the best they could and treated you in a way that was wrong. Maybe it was a decision at work in which you were blamed wrongly. We can be angry but if we dwell on it, it will turn to resentment. How do you deal? Reveal your hurt. You can’t forgive what you don’t want to own up to…That people have hurt you. So you first reveal your hurt. Admit it and put it down on paper.
When it comes to hurt…
- You can repress it—just pretend it doesn’t exist, ignore it—push it out of the way. That never works. It always pops out in some other form of compulsion in your life.
- You can suppress it, just say, “It’s no big deal, it doesn’t matter, they did the best they could.” No they didn’t. It hurt.
- Or you can confess it. You just admit it. “I’d really like to close the door on my past. I’d like to get closure so this person doesn’t hurt me anymore.” That’s great but, there is no closure without disclosure. First you must admit it. First you must reveal it. You must own up and say, “That hurt. And it was wrong and it hurt me.”
Get specific about your hurt. You make a list of those who’ve harmed you, what they said, what they did, what they thought, and you put it down on paper and you get it in black and white so you can look at it. Be specific…write it down and you reveal your hurt.
- Release the one who hurt me.
I release my offender. I let them go. I stop holding on to the hurt. How do I do that? How do you release an offender? Do it by forgiving them. It’s the only way you can release them. You don’t wait for them to ask for forgiveness. You do it whether they ask for forgiveness or not, because you’re doing it for your sake not for theirs. Why? Because God has forgiven you and you’re going to need forgiveness in the future and resentment doesn’t work, it just makes you miserable.
Mike Love, 74, is one of the original members of the Beach Boys, known for his contribution to such hits as “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “I Get Around,” and others. But according to a recent article in Rolling Stone, the most important thing to know about Love is that he meditates twice a day, without fail, and has done so for 49 years. “It helps you deal with whatever you’re dealing with,” said Love. “I meditate in order to cope with things.”
And over the years, he’s certainly had a lot to deal with: a former wife had an affair with his cousin Dennis Wilson, also a member of the Beach Boys; Love’s name didn’t make it onto the publishing credits for many of the Beach Boys early songs—something Love filed a lawsuit over; as well as a strained relationship with Brian Wilson—considered to be the genius behind the Beach Boys.
So has 49 years of twice-daily meditation helped Love? When asked what he would say to his cousin and former band-mate Brian Wilson if he were standing before him, Love responded, “I’d probably say, ‘I love you,'” moisture gathering in the corner of his eyes. “And I love what we did together. And let’s do it again.”
But then he gives his head a shake, narrows his eyes, any wetness there drying up, frowns and once again gives voice to what no amount of meditation can ever smooth over. “I’ve been ostracized,” he says quietly. “Vilified …”
Forgiveness…Jesus talked a lot about it. Matthew 18, His disciples came to him and asked “‘How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me? ’Jesus answered, ‘Not seven times but seventy seven times.’” He’s saying it’s got to be continual. Forgiveness is not a one-shot deal where you say, “I forgive ’em,” and that’s it. Because those feelings are going to keep coming back, and every time you get those feelings you’ve got to forgive them again. Forgiveness is not a one-shot deal. It is a repeated issue. It’s got to be continual. Jesus said, “Over and over.” And every time they come to mind, you must forgive them again until you know that you have released them fully. That may take three hundred times, I don’t know.
How do you know when you have released an offender fully? When you can think about them and it doesn’t hurt anymore. You can pray for God’s blessing on their life. You can begin to look at understanding their hurt, rather than focusing on how they hurt you, because hurt people, hurt people. You may alway remember the details of how they hurt you, but the pain is not longer there.
Sometimes this can mean a restored relationship…but in other cases it may not. To have a conversation with some of those who hurt you in the past would do more damage. Some people have remarried. Some people have moved away and you don’t know where they are. Some people have died. What do you do in those kinds of situations?
- One thing you can do is use the empty-chair technique. Sit down in front of an empty chair facing you and imagine that person sitting in the chair and say, “I need to say some things to you. Here’s how you hurt me” and you lay it out. “You hurt me this way, this way, this way. But I want you to know I forgive you. I am releasing you.” You say it to the chair.
- Another way to do it is to write a letter that you can never mail and you put in black and white, “This is how you hurt me.” You write it down, unload those thoughts and feelings. At the end you say, “But starting today I forgive you because God has forgiven me.” You release them so you can experience freedom. Then trash or torch the letter.
There’a third step in forgiving…
- Replace my hurt with God’s peace.
Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” You might think, “Where’s the justice in forgiveness…If I forgive them they get away free.” We need to remember that God is a righteous judge, one day God is going to settle the score. He’ll take care of it. He’s a way better judge that you or I. Jesus tells us there will be judgment. So you just release them and in the meantime you focus on God’s peace rather than trying to get even. You must release those who hurt you so God can do some repair in your heart.
Now let’s look at the second half to step 6…there have been people who have hurt us, but there are also people who we have hurt, and we need to make amends with those people.
Why make amends?
Why should we make amends? Because unresolved relationships are the root of your problem and they prevent recovery from happening. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Sometimes the reason we can’t break free is we are holding on to something unresolved in our relationships. We must resolve the issue or issues in order to become the person God wants you to be and enjoy the kind of happiness He meant for you to have in the first place.
How do I make amends to those I have hurt?
- Get specific and make a list of those I’ve harmed and what I did.
- Is there anyone I owe a debt to that I haven’t repaid?
- Is there anyone I’ve broken a promise to?
- Is there anyone I’m guilty of controlling?
- A spouse? A kid? A brother? An employee? Friend?
- Is there anyone I’m overly possessive of?
- Is there anyone I’m hypercritical of?
- Have I been verbally abusive to anybody? Or physically abusive? Or emotionally abusive?
- Is there anyone I have not appreciated or not paid attention to or forgotten an anniversary?
- Is there anyone I’ve been unfaithful to?
- Or have I lied to anyone?
That’s a start…
- Plan out the process of making amends with the individual you hurt.
Jesus said – “Do to others as you’d have them do to you.” So you stop and think, “If someone were going to come and apologize to me how would I want it done?” And you’d do it that way. There are three issues you need to look at:
- Think about time.
You don’t just drop a bomb on somebody. You don’t just do it when they’re rushing out the door or laying their head down on the pillow, “By the way I’ve got some stuff to deal with.” You do it according to their time not when it’s best for you but when it’s best for them.
- Think about your attitude.
How would you like somebody apologize to you? Privately with humility, with sincerity, to simply say what they did was wrong, to not make any justification for it, no excuses, not talk about your part, just assume responsibility. They may have had a part in the problem. You don’t try to justify your actions and you focus only on your part and don’t expect anything back from the person you’re trying to make amends to. You may realize you need to make restitution. If you’ve borrowed something and not returned it, you return it. If you owe somebody some money, financially, you pay it back.
Zacchaeus was a tax collecter in the first century. That meant that he collected taxes for Rome and he added extra for his own pockets. Tax collectors were sort of a con artist and they were hated. Well, Jesus decides to come to his house and from that moment on Zacchaeus’ life was changed.
Luke 19:8-9 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house…” Zacchaeus made restitution wherever it was necessary.
Now there are some things you can’t restore that you’ve taken away from other people. But don’t underestimate the power of a sincere apology. What you do is you go to that person at the right time, with the right attitude and say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but is there any way I can make amends to you?” And you leave it at that.
- Is it appropriate? Again, there are some situations where it would be unwise to contact the one you’ve hurt. Remember the qualifier on this step is “except when to do so would harm them or others.” In some situations you wouldn’t want to go back to because it would just open up a whole can of worms and probably make the situation worse. You could harm them or harm an innocent party. You don’t want to go back to an old girlfriend who’s now married. Or boyfriend. You don’t want to do that. There’s an innocent party. If you were involved in some kind of affair you don’t need contact with that person. So what do you do? You use the empty-chair technique. You write the letter that you never send, but do what you can do to balance the ledger. Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
- Refocus my life.
Refocus your life on doing God’s will starting today in my relationships. That’s what recovery is all about. I want you to listen to Lori Mitchell’s story and how recovery worked in her relationships.
Refocusing your life starts with focusing on Jesus.
Matthew 16:24 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
The Message translation puts it this way…“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself?
If you want to feel decent, if you want peace in your life…You need Jesus. If you focus on Jesus in your relationships, you will begin to find that forgiveness comes more easily…you need Jesus, because you can’t manufacture enough forgiveness for all the times you’re going to be hurt in this world. And you will have strength, courage and desire to walk the road of making amends even though its not easy!
Wouldn’t you like to be free from all that relational garbage?That’s the purpose of Step 6. I challenge you to take it with me today.